Pepperdine EdD: Sound of Doors Closing

It’s been an amazing year. A year ago February I decided to accept the challenge of moving across country to step from the safety a public school teaching job to try something new: teaching a masters level course at a new online program in Florida. I looked at my life in Southern California, having no permanent ties, save my siblings and nephews and nieces, and decided that I needed to make this change, to take my gifts and skills to the next level. It was a logical choice. But it also meant that I was permanently closing the door on a relationship that I’d been unsuccessfully pursuing over the past five years. I could either take this job or I could stay in California, woeking as a largely thankless classroom grunt waiting for a relationship that might never become what I wanted it to become. The choice was pretty logical. But I was also walking away from something that I had defined myself by. I’d poured everything I could into this. This was who I was. This was who I wanted to be with. I felt connected in a way that I couldn’t explain, yet it had somehow completely failed when it came to what she needed at the time. So I left and shut the door to that part of myself.

Then as I began to build my life here in Florida I grappled with how I would express my relationship to God, The problem was that this was something that I had re-discovered in my life because of the power of the relationship I’d just left. It was something we shared. It was something that seemed real because of the power of the love I felt for her. But given the ease with which all of that just went away without a single tear shed, I was left to think that that relationship had been largely in my own head, and this led me to question what else might have largely just been in my head.

It’s not so much that because I didn’t get what I wanted, I was just going to stop believing. But given how much I had opened my heart to the possibilities, only to be set aside and rewarded with the sound of silence and a completely affection-less life, I lost my certainty and thus another way that I had defined myself by slipped away. Another door closed in my life.

So this brings me to this past week. i had just returned from a great trip to Washington DC.

2009-04-29 Washington DC Newseum with Brad & Jenith
2009-04-29 Washington DC Newseum with Brad & Jenith

I was just getting to the point where I felt comfortable with my new cadremates, after having been away from the doctorate program for three years. Then when I got back from DC I received the letter from Pepperdine telling me that the Educational Technology Doctoral (EDET) Program committee had met and decided that my time at Pepperdine was done. In a nutshell, I’d requested for an incomplete for a research course so that I could get further along with my research and have something to write for my chapter 2 and chapter 3 of what would become my dissertation. The course professor felt that I didn’t deserve an incomplete and that I should just retake the whole course when it was next being given. Alas, this meant getting an “F” for the course which would mathematically drop me below the required B+ GPA to stay in the doctorate program. The committee agreed with the professor and now I’m no longer connected with Pepperdine. I knew for some time that this was going to happen, but getting the “disenrollment” letter very much left me with an unsure sense of self. More than just another door closing, having suffered the loss of these defining aspects in my life over the past year, I was losing track of who I was.

2009-04-29 Sparky and moi - Breakfast Meeting with Senator Feinstein.
2009-04-29 Sparky and moi – Breakfast Meeting with Senator Feinstein.

The irony of this was that my last conversation with my good friend Dr. Sparks in DC was about me having greater vision for myself beyond being the guy building PCs, blogs and websites for others and taking my own vision for myself to the next level. Other cadremates in DC were meeting with their senators and representatives and agencies and national policy makers while i was struggling to maintain some sense of self. Dr. Sparks had no way of knowing that the hammer was about to fall on my career at Pepperdine. Also a bit upsetting was that I knew how other doctoral students in my program had spectacularly failed (for example, showing up for the end of program oral comprehensive exams unprepared and rip-roaring drunk… twice), I knew that a different choice could have been made. But my path was apparently meant to take me in a different direction. Things could have been different, but I alone was responsible for things not turning out as hoped for.

As the days have passed I wish that I could confidently agree with my friends and advocates that this change is for the good, that something better is going to come from this. But the sound of so many doors closing tends to undermine any sense of confidence or promise. I just know that it’s a waste for me to remain a candle hidden under a bushel basket. It’s not much to go on, but it’s better than assuming that I am now whatever I was meant to be or that the best days are in the past. I refuse to believe that. jbb

Click here for my flickr set from my trip to DC.


  1. Laura

    Hmm… from a spiritual standpoint, I’m going to use the old adage “When God slams a door shut in your face so hard that your hair blows back, He opens a window somewhere for you to crawl out of” … or something like that. Where’s your window?

    Honestly, was Pepperdine ultimately not something for you? Is there a passion that you have felt not-so-confident about that you have not been “feeding”? Could you give that more attention, and pursue a doctoral degree down that road instead?

    Is there something this summer that you need to be doing besides Pepperdine?

    Yes, all slightly rhetorical, but I seriously doubt that this is the end of your road with female relationships, your doctoral studies, or your relationship with God. Perhaps you could meditate or find your centre, and just “be” for a while. I think that house-hunting will be enough to focus on this year, and perhaps next Spring you could try a PhD at UCF.

    You’re an amazing person and so giving, and a great friend. Hang in there… everything will come clearer in time.


  2. Michelle

    Perhaps moving across the country, ending a relationship, starting a new job/career, and going back to grad school was too much at once? I know that for myself I tend to ‘ride high’ on changes and overestimate my carrying capacity, ending up crashing. Maybe it’s a form of hubris for me, or maybe not, but it’s hard in any case. I have a lot of sympathy for what you’re going through.

    It looks like you’re going to narrow your focus for now, whether you chose it consciously or not, and maybe that is a good thing. When you are ready to consider going back, I agree with your friend Laura here – check out the wonderful people at UCF. I have one dear friend taking her ed tech doctorate there right now, and I know a couple of the profs. I’m sure your folks at Full Sail have good things to say and people to meet in that program, too!

    There’s a reason and a new path here, whether you see them or not – maybe instead of hunting for them you can wait to see how it unfolds. Hugs!


  3. Greg

    I must admit a bit of vicarious catharsis in reading this. We have been on differently similar paths over the years since OMAET. I must admit to a rather significant loathing for the cliche about closing doors equaling open windows. I don’t know that we aren’t the one doing most of the door closing – most of the time unconsciously. But that works for me. I can’t blame God, or an “Ex”, or strangers for where I find myself. I think God just doesn’t get in the way of letting life play itself out. He’s good that way. I don’t mean that pejoratively, we learn and grow from experiencing life as it happens. He is there, hands held out to fall back into or draw strength from . . . but He lets the choices be ours alone. In terms of the relationship – you and were on the same page, but in the end it was just the two of you who were, she wasn’t. I can certainly empathize!

    I remember when you told me you were making such a major move and I recall marveling at the courage you were displaying . . . and feeling rather proud that my friend was that courageous. I also had a sense it would be a great move for you. It has been a thrill to watch the flame inside grow as you have been there. There is excitement that wasn’t there the past couple of years – that is fun to see and hear.

    Mitch’s pondering has merit, too much? Maybe? I think the reason the five of us were drawn together in OMAET was because we do share this tendency. It is neither good nor bad – it just is who we are. Being that way means that we, at times, have to make middle of the road adjustments. I also think Paul was right. Your job is giving you a greater sense of your vision, not just of yourself, but of what you want to do that matters – the legacy you leave. I think the point he was making is significant. You aren’t just a techie grunt. You have a vision of making things different and maybe the development of that was being stifled by the full plate. And “nature” is righting the ship, enabling you to do what Laura is talking about – taking the time to flourish at Full Sail and grow your vision for a few months and let that direct where you go next not just in regards to your education, but you as a whole individual.

    This too I can understand. Laura could be talking about me as much as wondering if it applies to you, “Is there a passion that you have felt not-so-confident about that you have not been ‘feeding’?” I am not taken with cliches, but this one seems to apply and I heard it in a musical context today where it worked as sage advice as opposed to a hack-kneed cliche: Dance like no one is looking Sing like no one can hear Love like you’ve never hurt before Live like there’s nothing to fear . . . mostly that last line. I know it is looking straight in the eyes.

    You’re in my thoughts and prayers man!


  4. Ruthi

    Wow. OK
    its late and not my place but hopefully it may help. I too have had some travels to places I had wished I’d been then re “thunk” or not enjoyed .

    But perhaps one of the things we have in common is the faith part. I tend to be privately faithful. I am catholic by choice, and was raised protestant.

    But I have long since understood that I have endured much of my life and its tribulations ( many long stories – all good) all for a reason.
    I gave up trying to figure the lesson in advance. It took all of the fun out of the “reveal” that life gives you. I just really believe all of the things we know, live and learn all add up somewhere, someplace. It all eventually pays off.

    I will parlay some great advice I got about four years ago during my divorce . I was reading and chatting with a girlfriend about men and an older gentlman I met in a barnes and noble while waiting for something like coffeee any how.

    . Anyhow he said ” best advice I can give you?
    close up shop stay away until youre happy with who you are.
    When you enjoy the silence so much and fear giving it up for losing the peace of solitude of youre own time,
    then you are happy enough with who you are to be able to share it with another.
    My thinking

    When we jump into relationships over and over again we lose the who “we” are , if you do it too soon, “we” are not us in the relationship we are the guy/gal who just left the last one entering in the new one. When their actions and things you did are no longer on the tip of your toungue and the meanest things that happened or that caused you pain ” truly” have been forgotten to the point where you cant rememeber why they ticked you off any longer. Then you are ready.
    Is the process of being alone fun? – for me not at first. I have always been super social. But now I look at it as an adventure. Besides, I still like to be able to choose what color I want to paint my room with.! LOL not ready to give the decorating thing up yet.

    did it help.
    You know I bet we really should meet the conversation would be great.



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